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Court quashes subpoena ordering journalist to hand over research materials

(CJFE/IFEX) - The following is a 28 June 2007 CJFE press release:

CJFE Celebrates Decisive Victory for Derek Finkle

(Toronto, June 28, 2007) - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) welcomes today's decision by Ontario Superior Court Justice Watt to quash the subpoena issued against journalist Derek Finkle.

Last October, Finkle received a subpoena from police, ordering him to hand over any and all research materials he had accumulated in writing "No Claim To Mercy", his book about the original murder trial of Robert Baltovich. In May, Finkle challenged the subpoena, which threatened to cast a chill on press freedom in Canada.

"This decision is a stinging rebuke to the Crown and the police for engaging in what was clearly nothing more than a fishing expedition carried out without any regard for the constitutional protections guaranteed to journalists in Canada," stated CJFE Board member, John Norris.

Finkle found support in CJFE and two other organisations concerned with free expression issues when these groups joined as interveners in the case. CJFE, The Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), and The Writers' Union were represented by lawyer John Norris in court.

While Justice Watt focused on the failure to comply with the requirements of the Criminal Code in obtaining the subpoena, he also drew a number of important principles from various search warrant cases where the constitutional protection of journalists was upheld, and applied these principles to the circumstances of this case.

CJFE hopes that this decision, along with the victory in the 2006 Bill Dunphy case, will send a very clear message to the police that journalists cannot be enlisted as agents of the police. If police are given easy access to journalists' work products, sources will dry up and the ability of journalists to gather accurate information will be compromised.

We anticipate that this decision could also set a positive precedent for a case in Ottawa, where Ottawa Citizen journalist Gary Dimmock has just been issued a production order for his notes concerning allegations made by mayoral candidate Terry Kilrea against Mayor Larry O'Brien.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world.

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